Nats take 'amazing' trip to Clemente Museum

September 15th, 2021

WASHINGTON -- Honoring the legacy of Puerto Rico native and Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, the mission of the Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh is to “educate its audiences on not only his incredible baseball career, but his humanitarian efforts and life off the field, as well.”

That was achieved when members of the Nationals took a private tour of the museum last Friday night after their series opener against the Pirates.

“It was amazing,” said Juan Soto.

The Nationals organized a bus to take the team to the postgame event, which served both educational and team-building purposes. The shared experience sparked conversation and bonding moments as they learned more about Clemente.

On the field from 1955-72, Clemente was a 15-time All-Star, 12-time Gold Glove Award winner, four-time batting champion, 1966 MVP winner, two-time World Series champion and the 1971 World Series MVP. Off the field, he was so much more. Clemente passed away in a plane accident in 1972 at age 38 while delivering aid to Nicaragua after an earthquake.

“I think it’s important for them to learn the history,” said manager Dave Martinez, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico. “He was a Latin player back when things weren’t that good. The battles he had to fight, I think it’s important for them to understand that and what it meant for him to play the game and what it means for each individual now to represent and play the game. I got great feedback from our young guys, especially our Latin guys that went. They loved it. They enjoyed it. They couldn’t believe all the stuff that Roberto had done in a short period of time in his life.”

That particular message resonated with Soto. The 22-year-old made his second visit to the museum.

“To be out on the field and everything, just appreciate it,” Soto said. “Appreciate what you have, because at that time, it was really tough to play baseball. A Latin guy like that to come up to the bigs and be really good and everything, it was just pretty tough. Now, it’s maybe a little bit easier, but we appreciate it and keep working hard.”

The trip brought the players closer to the baseball legend they had read articles on and watched videos of as they pursued Major League careers. Museum executive director and curator Duane Rieder has designed the world’s largest exhibition of artwork, photographs, literature, memorabilia and baseball artifacts pertaining to Clemente.

“When you grow up, you think a lot about Clemente,” said 21-year-old Luis García. “Everybody says that name in the Dominican. You go to Google and you put in Roberto Clemente and you see the photo, you see the biography -- you only see that. But when you go to the museum, it’s very different. You feel that. Everything you see in that museum is Clemente. It’s very exciting for us.”

Finding out more about Clemente’s philanthropic legacy made an impact on the players, who have platforms as pro athletes to make a difference.

“[The biggest takeaway] was how much you can really help a community with a name and hard work,” said Erick Fedde.

Paolo Espino echoed, “Learning about Clemente and everything that he did, it’s awesome to know that there are people that have such a big heart.”

The museum visit took place less than a week before Roberto Clemente Day, celebrated around Major League Baseball on Wednesday. That afternoon, Martinez and members of his coaching staff wore No. 21 to honor the icon.

“Obviously, you guys know how I feel about Roberto Clemente,” Martinez said. “It means the world to me to represent someone like him. Not only as a player, but as a humanitarian. Growing up, he was my idol. He was always talked about in our household, what he did not only on the field but off the field. It actually reminds me of who I need to be every day. I will cherish wearing that number.”